My dad had the habit of listening to the same cd over and over again. It was inherited, I think, as I am a chronic repeat listener of the same one lp ad nausea whenever I get a new favorite band. It drove my dad nuts when I did it yet he subjected me to the same thing for as long as I can remember. Sometimes, these cds were boss (Like Amy Winehouse’s Back To Black). Othertimes, not so much (Why did I buy him a Barenaked Ladies album for Christmas in 6th grade? Why?). One such of these albums was Sam’s Town by the Killers. I remember how the Killers used to be good and I remember how awesome Hot Fuss was when it first came out but by the time Sam’s Town hit, I grew weary of Brandon Flowers’s cocky attitude and dissing of Franz Ferdinand as my loyalties did and always will lie with Alex Kapranos. Aside from a few track, Sam’s Town never clicked with me and I dreaded getting in the car with my dad. Now, however, it’s different.

It’s summer and I’m walking down the street in the rich part of town at ten in the morning. The houses here are towers with multiple balconies and heated floorboards. I don’t belong here in my scuffed boots, with my hair still knotted from the shenanigans of the night before but I’m earning my keep this week by walking a white fluffball dog named Lola. I have my headphones on and since I stopped being so devastatingly sad, I haven’t cried. In fact, I’ve done everything but cry as my lust for life turned into weeks on end of partying. I justify it with the logic that, as I’m entering my late twenties, I won’t be able to rage anymore. Not like I used to. So I might as well give my mid-twenties one last hurrah while they’re still here, clinging to me like the dirt and sweat and liquor of summertime’s disappearing.

Suddenly, my iPod plays a song I haven’t heard in years and I recognize it immediately: The closing track of Sam’s Town and my eyes burn.

Each lyric from “Exitlude” is heartwrenchingly apt, from the opening lines (Regrettably, time’s come to send you on your way) to the sentiments of the chorus (We hope you enjoyed your stay; It’s good to have you with us, even if it’s just for the day) and even the eerie inclusion of the word “daddy”, making it so perfect for my life that I’m pretty sure Brandon Flowers wrote the song specifically for me, as if he knew that I’d need it one day.

It’d been so long since I’d cried that it felt foreign; it felt like I’d forgotten how. I gasped and I sobbed and it was how I used to spend my days in the ‘before’, when I lived in that transitional time before ‘after’, when I hadn’t yet figured out how to live again. Only now, the tears were different. I wasn’t sad. I didn’t want to die. I didn’t even desperately want my dad here. I’ve accepted the fact that he’s gone. People die. It happens all the time. It just sucks when it happens to you.

It’s strange to cry for a skeleton from your past when you’ve made peace with the its role in your life. Before, I cried that my dad would never get to be at my wedding. Granted, before my dad had died, I’d never given much though to marriage. It wasn’t until after he died that I realized everything I’d robbed him of: He’d never get to tell me how dumb I was when I told him I was engaged; he never got to complain about making the drive to Iowa when I told him I wanted to get married in a barn; he never got to disapprove of the name I chose for the grandkid he never got to fall in love with; and he never got to see me grow up into this super strong pixie sized Amazon warrior I’m becoming. But it’s all about perspective. My dad died and I fell asleep for a few months and when I woke up, I was an adult.

We had some good times when he was here though. 

It’s a truth I don’t want to admit to because I was “that girl” for so long and I came so far only to become “that girl” again – Although it does strike me that perhaps I was always “that girl” and had merely fooled myself into believing that recovery was an option. I did try, you see. I tried damn hard. But it just didn’t stick. It’s been fourteen years now of starvation and purging and doing all the disgusting things that girls like me do in secret. We shove our fingers down our throats until our teeth scrape our knuckles raw. We let food rot in thermoses under beds and in drawers and force feed ourselves just to make ourselves vomit. We eat laxatives and go on liquid diets. We smoke cigarettes and drink coffee, not because we want to, but because they’re an appetite suppressant. We starve and we sleep and we set up a series of punishments and rewards – If I make it all day without eating, I can do something nice for myself. If I do eat, however, I lose that opportunity. It’s sick and it’s pathetic and it’s infuriating. I, at equal turns, play the role of the parent and the child – Insolent,  my round faced and youthful self refuses to eat as the elder Amber shakes her counterpart with more strength than I actually possess.

“You’re killing yourself.” I say, with the biting restraint that cuts more than a scream. “You’re killing yourself and you know it and you don’t care.”

It’s an old ghost I’ve let back into my life, and I welcome it as a close friend. Bulimia and I, we embrace with thin limbs wrapped around one another, feeling our spines protrude slightly more each day and it feels like victory.

You see? I don’t fail at everything I try!  I can succeed at something! I mean, it’s only been two months, really, and I’ve already lost about fifteen pounds and I’ve gotten so good at restricting. I remember to count my calories and I’ve cut out everything bad and I don’t eat meals larger than my fist. It’s all the old practices that I adopted like religion before and I’m doing it. I’m doing good! I’m making you proud!

It occurs to me, as I think these thoughts, how disgusting it is, how disgusting I am.

I know all the reasons behind it, of course. I’ve read the books and gone to the doctors and I understand what I’m doing and why I’m doing it. That, however, doesn’t make it right. Knowing the psychology of killing yourself doesn’t make the suicide justifiable. That sense of guilt only makes me more ashamed of myself, though. And that shame? It only makes it all worse.

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